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Wizard of the Crow

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,841 ratings  ·  380 reviews
From the exiled Kenyan novelist, playwright, poet, and literary critic--a magisterial comic novel that is certain to take its place as a landmark of postcolonial African literature.

In exile now for more than twenty years, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o has become one of the most widely read African writers of our time, the power and scope of his work garnering him international attenti
Hardcover, 768 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Pantheon (first published 2004)
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In the life of a bookworm, there's no greater feeling than finishing a chunker of a book and ending up enjoying it immensely. It's also rare to encounter a tale that is so unconventional and new that is must be described as a revelation. I am incredibly happy that I finally got around to reading Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. I was reminded of this book last fall when I attended a lecture of Ngũgĩ's son. Since then I've been dying to pick up his work.

To understand African literature,
This is a monumental, epic book that encompasses most of Africa's post-colonial history, and one which I feel hopelessly unqualified to review.

It was originally written in the Gĩkũyũ language, for local consumption in Kenya, and was translated into English by the author himself. It is an outrageous mixture of fantasy, farce and social commentary which draws on history, religion and local mythology. At different times I was reminded of Bulgakov, Rushdie and Marquez, but it occupies a truly uniqu
In Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature, Ngugi wa Thiong'o complained that African neo-colonial leaders behave so ridiculously that it's hard to satirise them (similarly, my Dad recently quoted to me from an interview about Bremner Bird & Fortune 'it's getting easier to make fun of politicians. Lots of our later sketches mainly consisted of reading out government policy') but he manages to do it here to painfully funny effect. At the same time he completely demys ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007
Epic, satirical, magical-realism account of the fictional African country of Aburiria. Aburiria is an African dictatorship run by a typical African big-man “The Ruler” whose control over the country remains strong but who increasingly struggles to find his way in a post Cold-War world where his previous allies in the West now criticise the very actions for which he was once praised and who increasingly finds himself a puppet of the American led Global Bank. He is surrounded by sycophantic minist ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
If you love Dictator Novels you'll love this one.

Also, there's just not that many long books I've come across from the African Continent. There's The City of God of course, but that's not really what we're talking about. So of course you offer me an 800 page brick of a book from The Continent, sure, I'm going to go after it. And in a day and an age like this, if you reside in the USofA and you're curious about LeClair's call for a Rump=Age novel, well, here you'll have a pretty good model to wor
K.J. Charles
Absolutely epic. A 900pp sprawling monster of a book that takes on colonisation, corruption, superstition, greed, social/cultural problems and everything people use to screw each other up, all without ever losing hope or sight of a better way. Translated by the Kenyan author from his native language. It features a hero who accidentally becomes a postcolonial witch doctor, and a heroine whose urban efforts to resist the Daniel Arap Moi-ish dictator take a turn. Lots of turns are taken, as the far ...more
Wizard of the Crow

Commencing in “our times” and set in the “Free Republic of Aburlria,” the novel dramatizes with corrosive humor and keenness of observation a battle for control of the souls of the Aburirian people. Among the contenders: His High Mighty Excellency; the eponymous Wizard, an avatar of folklore and wisdom; the corrupt Christian Ministry; and the nefarious Global Bank. Fashioning the stories of the powerful and the ordinary into a dazzling mosaic, Wizard of the Crow r
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: translation
I have a thing for books that create their own mythologies, and Wizard of the Crow has risen to the top of that list. Set in a fictional African country, this novel takes a serious romp through a stretch of land containing a Postcolonial dictatorship at odds with its people, hysterically played out through a young couple claiming to be The Wizard of the Crow, a sorcerer capable of knowing even The Ruler's deepest secret, the guilt of "white envy," by divination through a mirror. I realize this r ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kenya
There are quite a few legends in this world. One of the oldest tells of how the people of Babylon decided to build a tower all the way up to Heaven. But to no one’s great surprise, The Lord disapproved, and not only did he tear the tower down but by making everyone speak different languages he also made sure that nothing like it would ever happen again.

Bah humbug, says the dictator of the compleeetely fictional African country of Aburiria (really, it has absolutely nothing to do with wa Thiong'o
Maru Kun
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
About half way through the ‘Wizard of the Crow’ the Ruler makes a trip to New York with his Ministers in order to try and persuade officials of the Global Bank to lend Aburiria the money to advance the nation’s “ Marching to Heaven” Project.

The Ruler falls ill on the trip and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Machokali, is forced to call the Wizard of the Crow to fly from to Aburiria New York to affect a cure.

Machokali is worried that if the news ever leaked out that the Ruler was seeking the hel
Apr 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who possess both good taste and senses of humor.
Recommended to Libby by: Silburygirl on LJ
Set the fictional dictatorship of Abruria, this 2006 novel chronicles the decline of the corrupt Ruler and the rise of the resistance, which is inextricably linked with a powerful figure known as the Wizard of the Crow.

Sounds very grand, doesn't it? And it certainly is, with a broad and varied cast of characters from all walks of life and a powerful message of hope. The label "magical realism" gets tossed around a lot these days, nearly invariably referring to a nonwhite author's mixing of the
Paul Dembina
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't have to say other than I thoroughly enjoyed this satire about a fictitious (?) African dictator ...more
These weapons are to protect our right to political struggle and not a substitute for political struggle.
I'll have this book be the closing point to 2017 because firstly I'm tired and secondly a massive political satire seems a good way to end one of the most baffling political years in recent US history. Much as I probably should, I can't seem to avoid cutting my teeth on new authors via their biggest books, so when I desired to explore Nobel Prize for Lit potentials, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o came
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Well, finally finished the nearly 800 page novel, The Wizard of the Crow, by Nugui wa Thiongo. I read much of Nugui’s novels and other works during my political activists days in college. I wrote a paper about one of his most respected novels, Devil on the Cross. The professor who helped me with the paper wanted me to present it at an African literature conference at Standford Univ. (this was in the mid 1980s), but I was too shy to do it. I wasn’t very good at speaking in front of large gatherin ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*bumping this up to 5 stars. after a couple of months i'm realising this book is going to stay with me, and I rather miss it. I need to read more stuff by him soon*

I read the first 40 pages (Book One) of this novel before going to bed, and absolutely loved it. Book One told of the myths and stories surrounding the despotic ruler of the post-colonial African nation in which this novel is set. The writing and stories were so wonderfully creative and rich. Then from Book Two onwards we are introduc
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the African classic novel. Probably as good as any novel gets in depicting Africa's post colonialism culture, politics and problems.
It depicts a fictitious country with a despotic Ruler.
His two closest aides jostle for attention and one-upmanship.
Everyone in power are corrupt.
Everyone not in power are poor.
The USA and IMF/World Bank take a hammering in trying to ensuring the now independent African nations remain dependent on US dollars.
The Churches are hammered as not matter what the
As a look into Africa, African culture and African Literature this book is excellent. It’s satirical and deeply serious, and clearly written by someone who understands and is passionate about it.
The characters are incredibly layered and complex and even the ones you assume are the “bad guys” you end up understanding and sympathizing with. This is very important, because while it’s very clear whose side you ought to be on, real life is never that black and white. This is something the book conve
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o undertakes the difficult task of parodying the already absurd entity of the post-colonial Ruler and largely he succeeds. I don't really know how he does it, but he does. His peculiar "magic realism" wins here. I'll take Moore's stance in the The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 here and proclaim that magic realism has always been the norm in storytelling, from ancient times. The realism of "proper literature" we are taught is the norm, is not, it is an exceptio ...more
Yuko Shimizu
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If anyone is intimidated by 750+ page length, you certainly shouldn't. It was definitely the main reason why I had to put this off for so long (like, years!), as I am an ESL after all and read much much slower in English compared to my first language of Japanese. However, as soon as I started reading I got sucked in, and didn't even think about what page I am on.
The novel is written in simple language that is easy to understand and entertaining to read, but also deep and rich with history and p
Leslie Reese
This book is ambitious and over-the-top!

Can science, psychiatry, and moral political activism resolve brutal abuses of political power or must spiritual values and practices of global religions (ancient and contemporary) be employed as well?

So many storytellers in this tale---many are corrupt and greedy liars merely trying to save their own asses but the tales they come up with! Their utterances and praises! Convincingness to the Nth degree! Call-and-response, repetition, cues from the audienc
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Wow, an astonishing book. So much is encompassed within the poetic prose; Wa Thiong'o speaks eloquently about the effects of colonialism in African countries, about the violence against women across the globe, and about the poison that seeps into governments that are entangled in capitalist campaigns. Wa Thiong'o is able to tell a history that makes you question the importance of facts, dates, and names. His characters stand for many men and women, his country stands for many countries, and the ...more
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ngugi wa Thiong'o is an exiled Kenyan writer. Born in Kenya he was baptized as a Christian. He renounced it, even English, changed his name to ' Ngugi wa Thiong'o' and writes in his native tongue. He then translates them back himself to English. This is how his novels are published. He is also an opponent of the oppressive Kenyan government and has suffered a lot due to that. More on that later. His novels do not focus on the effect of colonization and conversion to Christianity in Africa as is ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-plan, african
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wayne Jordaan
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Only one word suffice to describe this satire: Brilliant! Throughout this read, while marvelling and giggling at the various subplots, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I might have been laughing at myself. Quite appropriately then, that at one time the title character uses a mirror to reveal the ailments of those searching for answers. It is also not lost on this reader that the author and his family were the victims of gross abuses inflicted by the minions of Daniel Arap Moi, eventually lea ...more
Soila Kenya
It could have been half the number of pages and still managed to get across the message.

It was definitely written to be read aloud, hence the length. If not in a play, then in the oral tradition of ancient Africa. So I wish he'd just written it as a play, as he is a prolific playwright. It was also originally written in Kikuyu and translated by him (such a boss move) into English, so this might contribute to its wordiness.

But the message he passes along was definitely worth going into exile for
Jul 24, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh man, I can't believe I finished! I feel like finishing this book was an accomplishment. Many people compare this African novel to the Confederacy of Dunces and I see the similarities, but getting into the story is a full-time effort and commitment. Its worth it in the end, especially if you appreciate the style of African story-telling, long-winded at times as it is. ...more
This reminds me strongly of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five in the way it mobilizes magical realism and dark comedy to criticize political actors. It tells the story of Aburiria, governed by a corrupt and self-aggrandizing dictator known only as the Ruler, who decides to build a new Tower of Babel to reach the heavens. A large cast of devout Christians, government ministers, police officers and businessmen is anchored by Kamiti, a beggar who initially adopts the role of a witch doctor as a joke b ...more
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was good.
Matt Herman
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Long book that meanders at times, but a very fun story. Weaves a lot of different ideas and thematic choices into one place, which generally manages to maintain a coherent thread.
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Great African Reads: Wizard of the Crow (possibly March) 29 57 Mar 17, 2014 11:56PM  

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Kenyan teacher, novelist, essayist, and playwright, whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of postcolonial writers. After imprisonment in 1978, Ngũgĩ abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favor of Gikuyu, his native tongue. The transition from colonialism to postcoloniality and the crisis of modernity ha ...more

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